If you haven't heard, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have been struggling lately after spending the first half of the season running away and hiding from the rest of the Eastern Conference. All of the recent losses have raised questions on both side, and in the case of the Pacers, a laundry list of variables which may be the cause of the problems since the All-Star break.
As the matchup between the two top teams in the East approaches, it appears both are looking forward to the game and the test before them with so much on the line with regard to earning home court advantage for a potential playoff series. As Chris Bosh mentioned, the Heat miss the Pacers.
LeBron James also said he was looking forward to the test without shying away from the importance for both teams.
.@KingJames on playing the Pacers: "It's a big game. We're not going to shy away from it. It's going to be a good test for us."— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 25, 2014
LeBron: "We want to play our game & play well. Going into an environment we could visit in the postseason, we want to see where we're at."— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 25, 2014
The Heat still trail the Pacers by two games but a win at the Fieldhouse would even the teams up in the loss column and quite honestly could be the last straw to topple the Pacers. After practice on Tuesday, Paul George talked about how much fun the team had playing together and playing well which has been missing of late.
The body language alone shows the results on the court haven't produced any fun of late. But if you can't have fun playing in a game like the one scheduled on Wednesday, against the defending champs in the best basketball league on Earth, then there are more drastic problems than we realize. The Fieldhouse will be electric and the Pacers have a history of responding in such moments. Yep, should be a fun night.
One big change for the Heat since the teams last met in December is center Greg Oden starting at center. Oden was brought in to play the Pacers, that's it. LeBron knows it. Oden knows it. And i'm sure Hibbert knows it.
"I think he knows why we brought him here," forward LeBron James said. "I think he looks at it as an opportunity to see how far along he's come as well. Obviously, it's not personal between him and Hibbert at all but he wants to see where he can measure up at this point in his career and at this point in the season for us."
Oden hasn't played at the Fieldhouse since his rookies season in Portland when he played 12 minutes and scored four points. But Oden has a storied history of success at the Fieldhouse, the site of his THREE state championships at Lawrence North when he and Michael Conley combined to dominate the local hoops landscape.
The fact that Oden is finally back enough from his horrific injury history to play a role in such a big game is a fabulous story. Just not one that needs a happy ending on Wednesday night.
That wouldn't be any fun at all.